‘Anger Management’ review: Why the ‘Two and a Half Men’ jokes?

Dear writers of “Anger Management,” we get it — Charlie Sheen was once on a show called “Two and a Half Men” that was pretty darn popular. It drew enormous ratings, had a devoted following, and when he was fired a stench surrounded the show so great that it put the New York City Dump to shame.

Everyone who watches Charlie’s new series is likely doing so as someone who watched his work with Chuck Lorre at some point in the past, so what’s the point of trying to be cute about it? There were moments in this episode where we actually felt that it was the strongest work that the show had put it yet, as we genuinely laughed a few times, were surprised especially by a story involving trashy romance novels, and didn’t feel like the show was trying to force anything down our throats. Then, they go and destroy the joke by having Sheen put on the same sort of button-up bowling shirt that we saw Charlie Harper wear for years and years — with a joke referencing Lorre thrown in for good measure and taking us completely out of the setting.

It’s not necessarily like the producers of this FX show really care that much at all about the element of realism present in their program, but we sure wish that they did — after all, quality rather than gimmicks should be what brings this show attention. The problem is that “Anger Management” doesn’t need cute jokes or references to “Two and a Half Men” to be funny — it has the talent to be so on its own. Charlie is a great comedic talent, and most of the supporting cast has some great experience producing some laughs of their own. Just allow these people the chance to create their own product rather than living in the shadow of something that came beforehand — otherwise, it’s impossible to move on from something that happened more than a year ago.

While we may sound critical of what was a ten-second moment of an episode, it’s essential to the future success of the show that it moves on. “Anger Management” may not be Emmy-worthy, but there’s potential for some great escapism here. Showrunner Bruce Helford and Sheen just need to remember that you can’t be escapism unless you escape, and the writing still seems too quick to embrace the past of a troubled actor rather than paving a new direction.

What did you think about this episode? If you want to read up about some more Sheen-related news, check out our look at the show’s ratings.

Photo: FX

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